Could You Have Frozen Shoulder?

Everybody hurts one of their body parts once in a while, and your shoulders are no exception. If you play tennis or golf, you might experience some shoulder pain from one of your mighty swings, but generally the pain will go away with a little rest, ice and TLC (tender loving care).

What if you can’t remember what you did that injured your shoulder? What if your shoulder pain does not go away? What if your shoulder becomes so painful you can’t even move it? 

“Become aware of a condition known as ‘frozen shoulder,’” said Keith Hechtman, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Doctors Hospital and a member of the Baptist Health Medical Group. “With frozen shoulder – also known as ‘stiff shoulder’ and ‘adhesive capsulitis’ – the joint capsule around the shoulder becomes thickened, the rotator cuff muscles contract and the shoulder becomes too painful to move.”

A common condition, frozen shoulder affects about 5 percent of the general population and 20 percent of those diagnosed with diabetes, thyroid disease, hypertension, adrenal and lung disorders. Known as an idiopathic (unexplained) condition, frozen shoulder usually affects women between the ages of 40 and 60, although men and athletes are diagnosed with the condition, as well. 

Frozen shoulder is not preventable. However, if you have any of the above-mentioned conditions, Dr. Hechtman recommends that you keep the condition under control to help reduce your risk.

“It’s important to recognize the symptoms of frozen shoulder, because early diagnosis leads to easier treatment and shorter duration,” Dr. Hechtman said. 

The condition usually presents in three phases:

  • Phase I (initiation phase) – Gradual onset of pain that continues to intensify and loss of motion.
  • Phase II (freezing stage) – Progressive stiffness with less pain due to the fact that you no longer move your shoulder.
  • Phase III (thawing phase) – Gradual resolution and motion in the shoulder begins to improve.

Frozen shoulder is usually diagnosed by a physical exam. X-rays may be taken to rule out other causes of pain and loss of motion, such as arthritis. MRIs and arthrograms (for patients who cannot have MRI) are used to diagnose the characteristic joint-capsule thickening or decreased joint capsule volume.

Initial treatment usually involves anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy to restore function to the shoulder. In some cases, cortisone injections are necessary, and in more severe cases, surgery is required.

 “About 90 percent of the patients will get better over time,” Dr. Hechtman said.  “In general, therapy lessens the healing time. If left untreated, frozen shoulder usually heals on its own in approximately eight to 17 months.”

So do you have frozen shoulder? 








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